EMPAC at RPI prepares to host innovative Fall 2016 performances in Troy, NY

The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is pleased to announce the Fall 2016 Season of concerts, film screenings, dance performances, talks, and events. As the nation’s most technologically advanced university performing arts center, EMPAC specializes in time-based art productions that explore the human relationship to emerging media technologies, challenge the boundaries of traditional performance genres, and provoke new ideas about how art and science intersect in the contemporary moment. EMPAC productions are carefully selected by an in-house curatorial team, and are often the product of commissioned artist residencies, which provide space, time, resources, and expertise for artists to realize ideas that would be technically impossible elsewhere. The EMPAC program is iconic of The New Polytechnic, Rensselaer’s vision of a new paradigm for collaborative research and cross-disciplinary education using the most advanced tools and technologies.

A hallmark of the fall 2016 season is the unveiling of EMPAC’s recently constructed wave-field array. Consisting of 496 independently controllable loudspeakers, this audio system is one of the most precise in the world, and capable of creating a 3D “holophonic” sound environment. More immersive than ordinary surround sound, “wave field synthesis” allows composers to place sounds in specific spatial locations around the audience and will figure heavily into future EMPAC electronic music programming. On Sept. 2, Rensselaer arts professor Rob Hamilton will perform on the system for the first time. His composition 108 Troubles will also be open as a free interactive installation from August 22 until the performance date.

Approaching immersive sound through very simple, analog means, EMPAC director Johannes Goebel’s installation The SubBassProtoTon will also be free to explore on the public mezzanine throughout the season. A walk-in cubicle organ pipe, the ProtoTon allows visitors to physically experience frequencies that are too low for audible perception and to interactively explore sound when it reaches the range of hearing.

San Francisco-based artist Patricia L Boyd will finalize a multi-part film-production residency on Sept. 1 with the screening of her as-of-yet-unnamed work. The project was shot with an intricate rig of cameras, configured to document the performer Nour Mobarak from all angles. A meditation on labor and exhaustion, the piece is a response to writings by poet Anne Boyer, who will read a commissioned text before the screening.

EMPAC’s new curator of theater and dance, Ashley Ferro-Murray, will present her first event on Sept. 7. Dancer-choreographer Jonah Bokaer will perform a trio of solos, under the title Three Cases for Amnesia. The show will feature Bokaer dancing alongside a digitally animated avatar, which both mirrors Bokaer’s movements and challenges the technical abilities of his physical body.

Pianist Mabel Kwan, who last performed at EMPAC in 2015, will return on Sept. 22 to take on composer Georg Friedrich Haas’ notoriously challenging piece Trois Hommages, which will require her to perform on two pianos simultaneously. This performance is part of a residency in which Kwan will record the rarely performed piece for future release.

One can make out the surface only by placing any dark-colored object on the ground is artist Hannah Rickards’ new film, which uses a cable-suspended camera. The title refers to a technique for navigating in polar white-out conditions, which was used in the film’s production. On Sept. 29 the piece will be performed live only once before going on to tour as a video installation.

On Oct. 6, Brainfeeder recording artist Lapalux will perform a new audio-visual show in Studio 1, a venue dubbed by regional musical press as the best room to hear electronic dance music in Upstate New York. Known for cinematic beats and complex-yet-infectious rhythms, Lapalux creates dance music for both the body and imagination.

Watering the Flowers is the title of this year’s film screening series. Inspired by cinema pioneer George Melies’ lost film of the same name, which was itself a response to Louis Lumiere’s L’Arroseur Arrose, the very first fiction film, this series presents films that were influential to filmmakers currently working in residence at EMPAC. On Oct. 13Ephraim Asili will introduce a number of short films before presenting his Return of the Electric Love (Take II), a film made from found footage of old Kung Fu movies. On Oct. 27Charles Atlas will introduce a screening of Andrzej Sekula’s sci-fi feature Cube 2: Hypercube. Atlas has been working on a long-term project called Tesseract, integrating 3D film with live dance. Finally, on Nov. 10Martine Syms will present a screening program called The Unreliable Narrator, prefacing her new film production using a 360-degree camera rig.

Two of jazz piano’s most progressive improvisers will share the Concert Hall stage on Oct. 29Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn will perform their ongoing duo project, which finds the two conversing within an evolving catalog of incomplete compositions. Both performers have been widely celebrated by the jazz press and record for the esteemed ECM label.

On Nov. 4, the electronic sounds of Gary, Indiana meet those of Sapporo, Japan when DJs Jlin and Qrion meet in Studio 1. Following her 2015 debut Dark Energy, which was named the album of the year by tastemaking UK magazine The Wire, Jlin has become a rising star within the Chicago-oriented genre of footwork. Meanwhile, widespread Internet acclaim has pushed Qrion in front of a global audience after having released her first tracks while still finishing high school.

Magic Electronics is the title of a 2014 work by French artist Laure Prouvost and will be the springboard for a live conversation with EMPAC curator Victoria Brooks on Dec. 1. Prouvost is the 2013 winner of the Turner Prize, the UK’s most publicized award in contemporary art, and will be in residence at EMPAC to develop a new performance.

Closing out the season on Dec. 9, composer and vocalist Kate Soper will present the premiere of Ipsa Dixit, an evening-length work of theatrical chamber music. Translated as “she, herself, said it,” the project uses texts by Aristotle, Freud, Wittgenstein, Jenny Holtzer, Lydia Davis, and others to skewer language and the authorship of expression. The performance will feature violinist Josh Modney, flutist Erin Lesser, and percussionist Ian Antonio.

While many of the above productions mark the completion of an EMPAC residency, other residencies will get their start this season or come to fruition in a different form. Choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili and collaborator Peter Born will be in residence at the end of August to do preliminary work on a new project. In September, violinist Olivia de Prato will be in residence to record solo works by composers Reiko Futing, Taylor Brook, Ned Rothenberg, and more. Meanwhile, dance and theater artist Mary Armentrout will be working with media artist Ian Winters on a site-specific performance using wearable movement sensors and video. In October, interactive electronics artist Andrew Schneider will be in residence with collaborators to develop and rehearse Unified Field Theory, a production that uses projection mapping and 3D sound spatialization. This project will premiere in fall 2017.

For tickets and more information, please visit empac.rpi.edu. For press and academic inquiries, as well as hi-res images, please contact Josh Potter at pottej2@rpi.edu.

The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is where the arts, sciences, and technology interact with and influence each other by using the same facilities and technologies, and by breathing the same air. EMPAC hosts artists and researchers to produce and present new work in a building designed with sophisticated architectural and technical infrastructure. Four exceptional venues and studios enable audiences, artists, and researchers to inquire, experiment, develop, and experience the ever-changing relationship between ourselves, technology, and the worlds we create around us. EMPAC is an icon of the New Polytechnic, a new paradigm for cross-disciplinary research and learning at Rensselaer, the nation’s oldest technological research university. 

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